Fertility problems and the stress of not fulfilling the wish for a child can have profound effects on the mental health of both men and women. The intrusive infertility treatments available can also contribute to mental health issues (MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health). Couples may experience stigma, sense of loss, reduced self-esteem, sense of loss of identity and feelings of defectiveness and incompetence. Stress and depression are commonly associated with infertility, with anxiety significantly higher for infertile couples compared to the general population. And after initial feelings of grief and shock have passed mental health issues can continue.
Research has found that women presenting for IVF were more depressed, had lower self-esteem and less confidence than a control group of fertile women, and experiencing a failed IVF cycle resulted in a further loss of self-esteem and an increase in depression. Studies also suggest that the success of infertility treatment can be affected by psychological factors, supporting the theory that distress is associated lower pregnancy rates.
Men diagnosed with fertility issues can experience similar mental health challenges, reporting stress, isolation, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, and a survey conducted by Fertility Network UK and Leeds Beckett University showed that 93% of participants stated their well-being had been affected by infertility. Relationships with partners, and family and friends, were reported to be deeply impacted by fertility issues.
Studies have found that interventions that help to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and anger, such as support groups, psychotherapies and counselling, resulted in significantly higher pregnancy rates when compared to control groups.
At Muma Nurture we’re here to offer support if you are affected by fertility issues, pregnancy or related loss, or if you want to make positive changes to your life. Contact us today to find out more about the help we can offer.